Big Guns and Bombs

by Fred Ray on April 2, 2021 · 0 comments

Everyone probably knows what a revolver is, but do you know which one is the biggest? The S&W 29, beloved of Dirty Harry? The Colt Walker? Naah, not even close. It was Pate’s revolving cannon. Not a hand cannon, mind you, but a real one on a carriage.

Each ball for the revolving cannon weighed 4lbs or 28000gr!  The cannon was as close to a scaled-up percussion revolver as one could get.  It utilized a 5-shot cylinder, a striker that would impact a percussion cap, and, to improve velocity and safety by reducing gas leakage, was also a gas-sealed design!  One could seal the cylinder to the barrel via the usage of a screw lever.  A separate lever would rotate the cylinder, which was held in place for firing via a hefty spring-loaded mechanism.

Apparently only two examples of Pate’s cannon were made, and one burst during testing. The other, however, seems to have been used during the Petersburg campaign in 1864-65.

Speaking of cannon, the local news has an item on the finding of a live projectile on the Monocacy battlefield.

“The unexploded military ordnance was determined to be a live cannonball round used during the Civil War. Bomb technicians conducted diagnostics and determined the fusing mechanism was still intact,” a statement reads.

The local bomb squad disposed of it in a nearby quarry.

These old cannon balls are not safe unless they are solid shot. If you find one don’t assume it’s safe because it’s old. In fact, it may be even more dangerous. Fortunately finding things like this in this country is rare, not at all like the “iron harvest” in France and Belgium.



Lorenzo Barber’s “Combo” Gun

by Fred Ray on December 16, 2020 · 0 comments

Some time ago (in 2006) I wrote a post about John Jacob and his unusual rifle. In it I said that Lorenzo Barber, the “Fighting Parson” of the 1st U.S.S.S., used a Jacob rifle because he is mentioned as having a double-barrel rifle with one barrel loaded with buckshot and the other with a bullet. This was just an assumption on my part, and it looks like an erroneous one.

Reader Art Ruitberg contacted me about the reference I used for that statement, and I had to admit that I did not have one for the specific make of gun. Ruitberg suggested that it might have been a “combo” gun made locally in New York state. A combo gun was both rifle and shotgun Some had the rifle barrel directly over the shotgun barrel, some had them side by side. All were muzzle loaders. This made for a versatile gun both for hunting and the battlefield, but one that was rather heavy. Several New York gunmakers built them to order, so it seems more likely that Barber used one of these rather than an imported (and very expensive) Jacob. Barber himself describes it as “my double barrelled rifle, containing a bullet in one barrel and nine buck-shot in the other” but gives no more details.

Period examples of this kind of gun come up for auction now and then. A recent one was this Lewis Hepburn combo gun, which sports a .45 caliber rifle barrel over a 12 gauge shotgun barrel. Operating out of Colton, New York, Hepburn (1858-1908) made his own rifles, then later worked for Remington, where he designed the famed Hepburn target rifle.

So I have revised my opinion about Barber’s gun. It was most likely a New York-made combo gun.

Combo guns remain popular today. The one you most often see is the Savage Model 24, and over and under combination that comes in a variety of calibers. In Central Europe many hunters use a drilling—a three barrel gun with two side by side shotgun barrels over a rifle barrel.

Special thanks to Kramer Auction Service in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, for permission to use the photos.


The Effect of Bayonets, The Oldest revolver

by Fred Ray September 20, 2020

Cap and Ball is at it again, this time to answer a question that often comes up about Civil War rifles. Did the addition of a bayonet have any effect on accuracy? He also has some commentary on the use of bayonets during the war. We often hear that Sam Colt invented the revolver, and […]

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Civil War Amputation Kit

by Fred Ray August 23, 2020

Amputation of wounded limbs was not new but reached somewhat of a high point in the Civil War. The Minie ball, in particular, was notorious for shattering bone. Doctors soon found that trying to save a limb was counterproductive—it almost always became infected and the patient died. We have all seen gruesome photos of severed […]

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Four Civil War Pistols (and the rounds they fired)

by Fred Ray August 12, 2020

Cap and Ball, whom we have met before, has a very informative post on four Civil War revolvers—the Colt, the Remington, Starr, and Adams. He shows how each worked and which worked best. He also shows the paper cartridges they fired and how to make them. Quite interesting if you want to know the details […]

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Gone With The Wind—Or Are They?

by Fred Ray August 4, 2020

A look at the people who buy all those statues people have been tearing down. The leaders of Newton Falls have declared their town a “sanctuary city” for unwanted statuary. “History is a big part of this community’s identity – you can still dig up arrowheads in the fields – and we have acres of […]

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Josie Wales’s Gun For Sale

by Fred Ray July 24, 2020

One of the guns from what was probably Clint Eastwood’s best Western is up for auction. Set in Missouri during and just after the Civil War, it chronicles the flight of an ex-Confederate guerilla to escape a vengeful Union. “Well, you gonna pull those pistols or whistle ‘Dixie’?” Moments after delivering this line in the […]

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